Novellino / Rosi / Mazurek / Barnes – Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (2014)

Italian multi-instrumentalists and sound artists Attilio Novellino and Saverio Rosi make musique concrète from field recordings and combine them with both analog and digital instruments and electronic twiddling. The electro-acoustic arena has many participants but even on this musical frontier, these guys are innovative. For their latest project Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (November 15, 2014, Discreet Records), they conducted their field recording session at a still-active 19th century textile factory in southern Italy, picking up the sounds of machinery dating from well more than a century ago, processed the samples into two long-form pieces and added guitar, organ, bass, synthesizers and electronic effects to finish it off.

Well, not quite finished. The crowning touch was to fuse all this with the tactical contributions of experimental specialists Tim Barnes (drums/percussion) and Rob Mazurek (cornet/electronics).

Objects, therefore, isn’t really about melody and rhythm: drones, random clatter, mechanical abrasions and ambient textures dominate from electronic and acoustic sources equally blended, mutated, looped and processed into a creamy sonic milkshake. Mazurek’s cornet appears sparingly, making its appearances all the more prominent. He reels off some opening expressions at the start of “Objects” before Novellino and Rosi’s industrial hissing and humming take over. Barnes’ shuffling about enters at around the four and a half minute mark and for probably the only time on this album a riff — just two chords back and forth — emerges. A short time later, Mazurek improvises playfully over that until static overwhelms this riff, followed by several episodes of heavily modified textile machinery. Finally, the cornet reappears in mutated form to end the “Objects” track.

“MIrrors” continues with more odd concoctions of sonic experimentation (Mazurek’s cornet is heavily sliced up nearly beyond recognition at the midpoint of this track), and then Mazurek is dubbed over himself later on. Toward the end, Mazurek makes abstract jazz remarks amid buzzy and pesky electro jabs. It epitomizes the pushing back against the very technology we embrace. The battle ends with an inconclusive, abrupt stop, leaving the listener with the conclusion unresolved.

Perhaps, that’s the point of it all. Electro-acoustic music is a deliberate mashing together of two worlds that are in opposition to each other, and creative sparks result from that. It might not always make for the most harmonious sounds, but it can be so fascinating. It certainly is when Attilio Novellino, Saverio Rosi, Tim Barnes and Rob Mazurek pool their ideas together.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron